More from Vaako, and a glimpse into Zhylaw, and then the final showdown. I think I watched that one sequence three times to make sure I'd gotten the moves down right. This is the end of the fic, but I have ideas for shorts set in this universe, if anyone's interested. Let me know what you think!
A Chronicles of Riddick Alternate Universe
With the help of the Purifier—he would only give us his Necromonger title, saying he wasn't worthy of bearing his Furyan name—we returned to Helion Prime undetected. The undercutter even got parked next to our ship.
Jackie was extremely glad to see that we were fine, thanks, and I gave Imam's talisman to a quietly grieving Lajjun. Guv was quite interested in exploring our ship, and the Purifier had resigned himself to waiting for results when we went after Zhylaw. We would start out in the city, ambush some soldiers and disguise ourselves in their armor, but Ziza stopped us momentarily.
"Are you gonna stop the new monsters now?" she wanted to know. Oh, yes, we told her. They wouldn't last much longer.
Our ambush was a success, and we managed to reach the giant ship the Purifier had called 'Basilica' just as it began to pull in its stairs. Snake-Bitch—Dame Vaako—was there, and Riddick bumped her shoulder, on purpose. She followed us inside, and we gave her a glimpse of our eyes before melting into the crowd. Her panic was rather amusing, and I knew she was running off to tell her husband that he'd screwed up and left us alive.
Basilica, Vaako Quarters
"You mean on Helion," the new First Among Commanders stated, hoping that his wife was wrong.
"I mean here, on this very ship!" she replied in a frightened hiss. He wanted to shake her, snap her out of the panic she was working herself into.
"Could you be wrong? The mind fabricates fear." He grabbed her arm roughly. "Could you be wrong?!" She pulled her arm from his grasp.
"Not so wrong as you when you left them alive." He'd seen them dead, unmoving. He had! "Now it's twice the mistake; not only your failure, but now, the report of success! How do we salvage this? How? How?" Dame Vaako asked herself. He nodded.
"Lord Marshal's got to be warned." He would have walked out then, but her next words stopped him in his tracks.
"You will never see the Underverse!" Vaako turned to face her again. "He will kill us both before our due time." Then she paused, looking thoughtful. "I say we give them their chance. If they are half of what you think, they could at least wound the Lord Marshal, and that is when you must act."
He frowned. "Just to take his place. Just to keep what I kill."
"It is the Necromonger way," she replied.
"It is not enough!" he thundered back at her.
"Then you do it for the faith!" Her hiss gave him pause… again. "If he has fear, he has weakness. If he has weakness, Vaako…"
"… he is unworthy of lordship," he concluded.
"We do it for all Necromongers," she confirmed, nodding slowly.
"Protect the faith." It would have to sustain him through the next few hours, however long it took.
"This can still be a day of days," she said, reminding him of Zhylaw's declaration earlier. "But the timing must be flawless."
Basilica, Command Center
"We found this Lensor, dead," the trooper reported as his comrades dropped the creature at Zhylaw's feet. Its throat was cut almost to the spine, a gaping maw.
"Show me his last sights," the Lord Marshal ordered. Final Protocol would have to be put on hold for the moment, if someone on the ship was killing Lensors. The thing was plugged into a viewing orb.
A corridor, on the ship. Greens and blues, the normal cool colors. Then two armored forms walked by, one quite a bit smaller than the other, both radiating warm orange and yellow. Breeders, wearing his people's armor, masquerading as his troops!
The two figures looked at each other and then lunged, the smaller going straight for the Lensor with a long blade held against its forearm. The larger didn't draw anything as it flashed by, presumably after the creature's handler. Then snow filled the screen with the Lensor's death.
"Commander Toal…" He struggled to keep his voice level and calm-sounding. He'd seen the flash of silver eyes from both figures, the only thing out of place about them—well, other than the whole situation with breeders roaming his ship at will. Vaako had lied, or been deceived; Riddick and his female were still alive, and they must be coming for him.
"They won't escape this time," the dark-skinned Commander assured him. He hoped that the man was right. Otherwise, he'd have to kill them both himself. And that worried him.
Basilica, Quasi-Dead Grotto
Riddick put a knife into the heart of a writhing body, and as its pod rotated into the grotto, we rode along. The doors into the throne room were closed, and it sounded like there was quite the crowd outside. Just as we reached the doors, two soldiers assumed guarding positions. We crouched and silently moved to within a half-meter of the doors.
We'd shed most of the armor that we'd used to get on the ship; my lower body was still covered, while my mate wore the cuirass, greaves, bracers, and a cuff that covered his left bicep. While we had a moment, I stole a brief, fierce kiss from him. When I let him go, the big guy cocked a curious eyebrow.
"For luck," I whispered, earning a lopsided smile. Then he looked up at the openings in the doors and slid a blade across one bracer. The shimmering chime of metal on metal would be rather hard to ignore. On the third stroke, the two guards turned, and each of us drove a purloined blade into a face. Our momentum opened the doors, and then Riddick took one, two, three quick steps and leaped over the throne, one foot boosting him higher from its back. I could just see him drop right onto the Lord Marshal… and go right past.
"Stay your weapons," the man ordered, and soldiers froze even as I stepped around what my mate had vaulted. Zhylaw's focus was all on him, where he was regaining his feet—at the other end of the hall, leaving me at the madman's back. "Consider this," he said. "If you fall here, now, you'll never rise. But if you choose another way, the Necromonger way, you'll die in due time, and rise again in the Underverse."
"Yeah, great sales pitch," I said, causing Zhylaw to spin and stare in shock. Half-dead soul didn't see that coming, I guessed. "But it really needs some work. Less absolutes, maybe." I wouldn't interfere unless it was absolutely necessary; this was Riddick's fight, and this freak had made it so thirty years ago.
"Convert now, or fall forever," he demanded, turning his attention back to Riddick. It was a mistake, but not one I would exploit… for now.
"You would kill everything I've ever known," was the reply. Then that fancy, back-heavy knife whistled through the air, and Zhylaw caught it as it passed his ear and drew a line of blood on his cheek. Score one for the Furyan.
"Not now," said a familiar voice just inside my hearing range. I looked up and glimpsed the Vaako pair on a balcony. Was it just me, or was there more gold on his armor? Whatever.
"Been a long time since I've seen my own blood," the Lord Marshal mused. Good, that meant that he'd probably forgotten what his own weaknesses were and wouldn't be defending them consciously. He used the knife to gesture to his soldiers, who moved back. Giving him room for a fight. Then the knife fell to the floor.
Suddenly, I could see his soul dart straight at my mate, his body following and throwing my man into a column. Two soldiers came close to me, and I turned to gut them, but Aereon materialized at my side. Huh. Didn't think Elementals got worried. Guess they do.
Riddick staggered back to his feet, only to be battered back and forth as Zhylaw cheated and hit him from all sides, nearly at the same time. He blocked one punch, then took another to the jaw, a blow that really rattled him. The Lord Marshal leapt right over him—flashy move, and potentially dangerous—and nearly ran into my mate's backhand. Then it was back to the flurry of punches and kicks, though more were getting blocked now.
Then the infamous convict hit the floor, and Zhylaw decided to boast.
"These are his final moments!" he claimed, deliberately raising one arm of his soul, then the other, and letting the body follow. He went to one knee in front of my mate. "Give me your soul!" My heart leapt into my throat as a grayscale version of Riddick's face was pulled up, Shirah's mark flaring into intense pain, but then there was a struggle on the Necromonger's part. The image snapped back.
"Fuck you!" my mate roared, twisting up and catching Zhylaw with his fist. The Necro went flying across the room. No sooner had he landed than he zipped up onto a statue and broke off the spear the figure had been holding to its own ear. He jumped back down and almost hit his opponent. Two spins, lashing out and missing. Upswing, miss. Horizontal, miss. Then a jab, which Riddick caught in his elbows, holding the spear just long enough to try to backhand the madman. It missed, and the freak zipped around behind him and slammed the shaft against his back. The Furyan rolled, then caught the spear just before it could pierce the armor protecting his solar plexus.
The grip was used to lift my mate and propel him halfway across the room, at which point the Lord Marshal withdrew it and hit him with the other end before he could touch the ground. A meter or more broke off with the strike, even as Riddick sprawled at the base of the dais, right in front of me. The rest of the spear was discarded, and my hand reached out and took a spear from one of Aereon's guards. The man didn't even notice.
Meanwhile, Zhylaw had appropriated another Necro's spiked staff and leaned down to draw it tight against his foe's throat. I heard metal wrench and break and noted that Vaako was now armed with a triple-headed poleaxe.
"You're not the one to bring me down," I heard Zhylaw say. That was my cue. I leaned back, spear balanced in my hand, and hurled the weapon at the Necromonger. It plunged into his lower back; not high enough to hit the abdominal aorta, nor centered to sever the spine, but a debilitating injury, nonetheless. He pulled it out and looked around to see who had dared to interfere, but, with no one close, he had no one to blame.
"Now!" Dame Vaako screeched. "Kill the beast while he's wounded!" Vaako leapt from the balcony and moved to stand over his boss.
"Help me, Vaako. Kill him," the Lord Marshal directed. I saw Riddick grab the ornamental knife out of the corner of my eye. Vaako—and yes, he did have more gold decorations on his armor now—raised the polearm high. "Vaako?!"
"Forgive me," the other Necromonger said before beginning his strike. Events seemed to slow before my eyes as I heard Dame Vaako say something about 'flawless.' The axe descended. Zhylaw's soul made a break for it, turning to look where he was going too late and reaching his limit just in front of my mate, who raised the knife to make his own strike.
Well, he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. Fun.
The axe clanged against the floor, and the knife sank down through the top of the Lord Marshal's skull. Dame Vaako cried her protests, but that wouldn't change anything. Riddick snapped the hilt off the blade, struck Zhylaw's chin with his knee, and watched impassively as the former ruler collapsed bonelessly.
"Noooo!" The cry echoed from the balcony where Snake-Bitch stood. Probably had planned on her dear hubby offing the old man. Aereon smirked at my side.
"Now, what would be the odds of that?" she mused. I rolled my eyes—damn interfering Elementals—and strode up to my lover. I wiped away some of the blood smearing his temple and looked into his eyes.
"Your mother has been avenged," I whispered. "All who died on his orders may rest in peace." He nodded, and I felt his muscles begin to tremble. He'd truly fought himself to the point of exhaustion. I walked him to the closest seat where he could hide the fatigue—the throne. Then I sat on one of the armrests, and he leaned into my side.
"Abomination!" I looked up and saw Dame Vaako headed for us with the broken head of the statue's spear. She held it clumsily, and I drew just one of my daggers to deflect the blow and send the piece of metal skittering across the floor. I slashed the air in front of her, and she backpedaled so quickly that she hit a pillar before she had time to realize it was even there. Then my bare arm was across her throat and I was growling into her face.
"Don't fuck with me, bitch," I snarled. "You've seen what I can do, and that was when it wasn't personal." She flinched. "Personal turns me downright nasty, and then I tend to make my victims suffer. So watch yourself, and don't make a single wrong move." I pushed away, making sure her throat would bruise, and returned to Riddick's side.
Vaako said something to her, I wasn't paying attention to what, and they turned and approached the dais, his hand on the back of her neck. His other hand still held the decorative axe.
Rather than attack us—a move I would have suspected—Vaako pressed down on his wife's neck until she was prostrated in front of us. Then he went to one knee as well. Behind him, soldiers and courtiers alike abased themselves for us. Only Aereon remained upright.
"You keep what you kill." My mate's statement hit me like a sledgehammer. He had killed the Lord Marshal, which meant that he was now elevated to that august position.
So what the hell were we supposed to do now, with an entire civilization looking to us for direction?